August 23rd 1791

Massimo A. Allamandola suburbanstudio at
Thu Aug 23 18:10:14 BST 2007

The seizure of prime land in Kenya by white settlers taken during the
colonial era and the land grabbing which occurred post independence by
powerful black elites are responsible for abject poverty among
indigenous and nomadic communities in Kenya today.
Deborah Gabriel

August 23rd 1791

Press Release

London's first memorial day in remembrance of the Transatlantic Slave Trade should become national day says Mayor

23-8-2007 513

The Mayor of London is inaugurating London's first annual memorial day and is calling for a national day in remembrance of the Transatlantic Slave Trade. The City Hall event takes place at 10am on Thursday 23rd August and will include guest speaker Revd Jesse Jackson, who will recite 'Free at Last', the traditional negro spiritual from which the late Dr Martin Luther King took inspiration during his famous 'I have a dream' speech.

Other guest speakers will include Ben Okri, Linton Kwesi Johnson, Diane Abbott MP, and Gloria Mills CBE. Singer Beverley Knight will do two special performances with the London Community Gospel Choir.

The memorial day will remember the horrors of the Transatlantic Slave Trade, acknowledge the role of the UK, and commemorate the courageous acts of the people that fought and campaigned to end the brutal trade.

Mayor of London Ken Livingstone said: <<It gives me great pride to inaugurate London's first annual memorial day in remembrance of the Transatlantic Slave Trade and its abolition. I agree with John Prescott who earlier this year, as the then Deputy Prime Minister, called for an annual national memorial day of commemoration. A memorial day will ensure we never forget one of the most horrific episodes in human history, which also constructed an edifice of racist ideas towards black people that still have to be confronted. >>

Not only was the Transatlantic Slave Trade a crime against humanity, the lives of hundreds of millions of people remain affected by the legacy of that crime to this day. Historically, the story of the abolition often incorrectly excludes black people. A memorial day will help remind us that it was the slaves who rebelled in huge numbers and whose contribution must be given its real weight in history."

In partnership with UNESCO, the City Hall event is in observance of the UN's International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and it's Abolition.

Mr Koïchiro Matsuura, Director-General of UNESCO, said: << August 23rd not only commemorates the historic night in 1791 when the slaves of Santo Domingo rose up to break their chains and launch the insurrection that eventually led to the Haitian revolution, it also serves to pay tribute to all those who worked collectively and individually to trigger the irreversible process of the abolition of the slave trade and slavery throughout the world.>>

Tony Woodley, joint general secretary of Unite: << It is vital that we remember this year, and every year, what a huge crime against all humanity was committed by slavery. It is a crime, which continues today in some places under many guises, and it must be ended as a matter of urgency. We are proud of Britain's part in ending the transatlantic slave trade, but we should not lose sight of the struggle against that vile business which was fought by many brave slave leaders. Nor can we forget the part which slavery played in the creation of British wealth.>>
More than 12 million people were forcibly transported and subjected to horrifying conditions, and several million people were directly murdered as a result of the transatlantic slave trade. A number of organisations across the UK have backed the Mayors call for a national memorial day has attracted wide support from many including Bristol and Hull council.

Diane Abbott, MP said: "Slavery was the largest forced migration in human history of millions of people who were tortured, enslaved, starved and treated in horrific inhumane ways. It is excellent that London is establishing an annual memorial day and I am in full support of a national day of remembrance. Britain was one of the first countries in Europe to abolish slavery. However, the first country in the world to abolish slavery was Haiti, which fought a revolution to do so under the leadership of Toussaint L'Ouverture. It is therefore fitting that we use august 23rd, the anniversary of the Haitian revolution, as the date for our memorial.>>

Rap artist Ms Dynamite and her brother rapper Akala said: << The period in history during which Africans were kidnapped, forcibly enslaved and transported to be sold as produce was not a "Trade".
It was genocide, the average life of a working slave was just three years so they were quite literally worked to death.

<< It is the lies and crimes perpetrated during this period, which have allowed African people to still be perceived as, and thus treated as inferior by many people and establishments to this very day. Until the truth is told about what happened and the reality is fully and honestly addressed we will always be a society with racial tension and racist undercurrents. Having a memorial for the many millions that died is a great start but we still have much more work to do.>>

2007 is the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the British Slave Trade Act and is an appropriate time to establish an annual day of remembrance.

Benjamin Zephaniah, Poet : << We need a day of remembrance, just like the Holocaust, to remind people about what happened in the past. I think it is one of the biggest evils of all time.>>


Guest speakers at the event will include:

· Ken Livingstone, Mayor of London
· Rev. Jesse L. Jackson Snr, Founder – Rainbow/PUSH Coalition
· Rev. Dr. Rosalyn Murphy
· Ben Okri, Author
· Dawn Butler MP
· Diane Abbott MP
· Lee Jasper, Director for Equalities & Policing
· Jennette Arnold, London Assembly Member
· Gloria Mills CBE, Trade Union Congress
· Jean 'Binta' Breeze, Poet
· Kay Hampton, Commission for Racial Equality
· Eroll Walters, Black Londoners’ Forum
· Beverly Knight, Singer
· Linton Kwesi Johnson, Poet
· Professor Rex Nettleford

Notes to Editors

MEDIA ENQUIRIES: Press information is available from Rachelle Laurence on 020 7983 4068 / 07771 814 478 or Ben McKnight on 020 7983 4068 (numbers not for publication)

GENERAL PUBLIC/NON-MEDIA ENQUIRIES: Call the Public Liaison Unit at the Greater London Authority on 020 7983 4100

DUTY PRESS OFFICER: For out-of-hours media enquiries, please call 020 7983 4000


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